Understanding Our Call to Justice

Date Posted: 11/22/2011

Like many congregations in recent years, Memorial Drive United Methodist Church has wrestled with the issues of justice and mercy as viewed through the lens of faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.  Secular and societal influences often shape our responses to the needs of others, but as Christians, what is Christ calling us to do? 


As we began to deepen our understanding of justice and mercy, what some would call “the two sides of one coin,” we realized that the majority of our responses to those in need fell under the heading of mercy.  Once we acknowledged that, it seemed incumbent on us to explore the concept of justice and how it impacts the way we live and move in the world.


With that in mind, a Justice Task Force was formed and charged with the task of delineating this aspect of Christian discipleship and its ramifications for our church.  How were we to understand the biblical and historical mandate to “do justice,” and what should it mean for our life and work as a church?  The group was also charged with evaluating our current Justice Ministries and determining how best to fulfill our calling going forward.


Of utmost importance was the belief that the justice calling of MDUMC had to be true to the Gospel and to the tradition of the United Methodist Church.  We worked to set aside secular influences by seeking insight from Scripture, the writings of John Wesley, and published documents of the UMC (the Book of Discipline, the UMC Social Principles, etc.).  Primary findings included the following:


  • Justice and mercy are not the same thing.  Mercy is an act of loving kindness.  It relieves suffering and provides help to those in need, but it seldom results in a lasting solution to the problems of society.  Justice, on the other hand, can be transforming.  While mercy changes a situation, justice changes a system.


  • Scripture requires that we do justice.  We cannot be merely observers or commentators.  We are called to respond – to take action.  While the specific “means” of action will vary over time based on the issues with which we are faced, our call to justice through action is unchanging. 


These findings led the Task Force to develop the resulting Justice Charter, which will serve as a timeless document to continually remind us of our calling and challenge us to action.  It was written with the guidance of prayer, and in the faith tradition of John Wesley as revealed in Scripture, illumined by Christian tradition, made alive in personal experience, and confirmed by reason. 


The Task Force was mindful, as stated in the 2008 Book of Discipline, that “every generation must appropriate creatively the wisdom of the past and seek God in their midst to think afresh….Our summons is to understand and receive the gospel promises in our troubled and uncertain times” (p 75). 


This document speaks for itself and as such, senior pastor Dr. Chuck Simmons has stated that for our congregation, the “Justice Ministry Charter now serves as the foundational document guiding community engagement.”  This charter is shared here in the hope that it might prove to be transformative in your faith community as well.